One thing the Orlando Pride have not been shy about is trading draft picks to acquire players. Tom Sermanni and company sent two such picks — a first and a fourth in 2018 — to the Portland Thorns on Jan. 18 to acquire the rights to forward Rachel Hill. Hill was Portland’s first-round pick in 2017 out of the University of Connecticut and she intended to miss part of the NWSL season to finish school. She proved worth the wait.
The 22-year-old missed nearly the first two months of the season but quickly showed her quality. She was on the bench for two matches after signing her contract, but then played her first NWSL match and went the full 90 minutes on June 3 in a 2-0 home win against the Boston Breakers. Hill went on to play in 13 of the team’s final 16 games of the 2017 campaign and appeared in the team’s playoff match at Portland — the team that drafted her.
Hill started eight matches and appeared in 14 over the course of her rookie season, playing 713 minutes while scoring three goals and adding an assist. She fired 19 shots (six on target), completed 74% of her passes, sent in 20 crosses, made four clearances, and committed 13 fouls while drawing 10. She did not pick up a yellow or a red card.
She also played 17 minutes in the NWSL semifinal match, completing all five of her passes, but she wasn’t able to impact a game which the Pride already trailed.
Hill’s best game is pretty easy to point out. On Sept. 2, the Boston Breakers came to Orlando City Stadium and the Pride pounced behind a Hill brace for a 4-2 victory — the team’s fifth straight win. Hill scored her first goal just eight minutes into the contest, pouncing on the rebound of an Alex Morgan shot that Abby Smith denied. Hill coolly slotted on the half volley.
She completed her first career brace eight minutes later. After great build-up play by Steph Catley and Chioma Ubogagu, Morgan streaked down the left and crossed to Hill for an easy tap-in. The rookie’s movement took her to the perfect spot to score from Morgan’s cross.
Hill nearly completed a hat trick before the first half ended but slipped a ball just wide of the back post. She completed 70% of her passes on the slick, wet surface on a rainy night in Orlando, and made three tackles to boot.
2017 Final Grade
The Mane Land staff gave Hill a solid 6.5 for her rookie year. Her composure and movement were generally good, but Hill did have a tendency to miss the net with some shots, perhaps trying to be a bit too fine with her final ball. She’ll want to get more than a third of her shot attempts on target moving forward. She also sometimes disappeared for periods in the game. Hill could benefit more from a more productive fullback partner on the right side of the attack.
Following the 2017 season, the Pride picked up the option on Hill’s contract. The young UConn product could become a prolific scorer in the NWSL as she develops and gains experience. To that end, Hill went to Australia to play in the W-League with the Perth Glory and has quickly become a regular scoring threat. Hill has scored seven goals — including her first professional hat trick — in just her first five games with Perth to seize the early lead in the Golden Boot race. She also has an assist and 23 total shots already (13 on target). She’s even drawn nine fouls while only conceding four, improving in all aspects of her game. Playing with Aussie star Sam Kerr and standout Sky Blue midfielder/forward Raquel Rodriguez helps.
If Hill can continue to develop in Australia and carry that form into the NWSL in 2018, she could give a huge boost to an offense that already was the league’s best, although it will be without Camila for a portion of the 2018 season.
Previous 2017 Player Season in Review Posts (Date Published)
- Dani Weatherholt (11/17).
- Nickolette Driesse (11/18).
- Ashlyn Harris (11/19).
- Aubrey Bledsoe (11/20).
- Monica (11/21).
- Ali Krieger (11/22).
- Jamia Fields (11/23).
- Toni Pressley (11/24).
- Kristen Edmonds (11/25).
- Jasmyne Spencer (11/26).
- Steph Catley (11/27).
- Danica Evans (11/28).
- Chioma Ubogagu (11/28).